Tag Archives: Gov. Greg Abbott

Cloud Wins Special in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Michael Cloud (R) | Photo from campaign ad

Michael Cloud (R) | Photo from campaign ad

July 2, 2018 — Perhaps the most unique special election from a long series of 2017-18 irregular voting contests just wrapped up this weekend in southeast Texas, capping a subdued political battle that attracted little national attention.

Former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) is one of several members to be forced from office because of sexual harassment allegations. Already announcing that he would not seek re-election because of a settlement reached with a female employee that was financed through the special congressional taxpayer funded account created years ago to settle internal employee relations incidents, Farenthold then quickly resigned from Congress when it became apparent that the House Ethics Committee was going to fully investigate his situation.

Rep. Farenthold’s exit meant the committee would no longer have jurisdiction to consider an ethics complaint because the incumbent’s mid-term departure meant the committee could not pursue a private citizen.

Under Texas election law, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was forced to quickly call a special election to fill the balance of the term. His state’s vacancy procedure did not afford him the opportunity of making the special election concurrent with the regular vote as Govs. Rick Snyder (R-MI) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) did when House members in their states resigned (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI) or suddenly passed away (Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY).

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Today’s Primary Previews

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seatsMay 22, 2018
— Another four states will host regular primaries tonight. Today, we preview Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas.

ARKANSAS

The Natural State features a rather quiet election cycle, but a couple of key primaries are on the docket for today.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) seeks re-nomination for a second term and faces only minor opposition from gun range owner Jan Morgan. Former non-profit executive Jared Henderson is expected to win the Democratic primary. Gov. Hutchinson is the prohibitive favorite for re-election in the fall.

With no Senate race in Arkansas this year, the four House races, possibly with one exception, appear to yield little in the way of serious competition.

Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) and French Hill (R-Little Rock) are unopposed for re-nomination. Reps. Steve Womack (R-Rogers) and Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) drew only minor opposition.

Only Rep. Hill looks to have a serious opponent in November. State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock), who has raised over $600,000 and had almost $240,000 in his campaign account through the pre-primary May 2nd report, is a credible candidate. He is expected to win the nomination, with the only question being whether one of his three Democratic opponents can force a run-off.

In any race where no candidate receives a majority vote, the top two advance to a June 19 run-off.


GEORGIA

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek re-election, so the open governor’s race tops the election card this year.

The Fox5 news outlet in Atlanta sponsored a pre-primary poll (May 15-16; 522 likely Georgia Democratic primary voters, 515 likely Georgia Republican primary voters) and found former state House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams topping former state Rep. Stacey Evans by a large 58-19 percent margin in the Democratic primary. Abrams is expected to win outright tonight.

On the Republican side, going to a run-off appears likely as the Fox5 poll finds Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle drawing 31 percent followed by Secretary of State Brian Kemp with 20 percent. State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) is third at 14 percent, and businessman Clay Tippins attracting 12 percent support. State Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) then registers only five percent preference.

Georgia also has no Senate race in 2018, but does have 14 incumbent House members all seeking re-nomination and re-election. Each is expected to win re-nomination.

Two primaries of note occur in Districts 6 and 7. Rep. Handel winning the most expensive congressional race in history back in June (likely exceeding a combined $50 million) means she is attracting several Democratic opponents vying for the nomination in order to challenge her in the regular election. Since special election nominee Jon Ossoff chose not to seek a re-match, the leading contenders among the four Democratic candidates appear to be former news anchor Bobby Kaple and businessman Kevin Abel who have raised a combined $1.1 million for the primary campaign. Gun control activist Lucy McBath could draw enough support to force Kaple and Abel into a July 24 run-off election.

In the 7th District, four-term Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) looks to be facing a credible general election challenge, from either learning center chain CEO David Kim, former state Budget director Carolyn Bourdeaux, or software developer Ethan Pham. Combined, the group had raised a cumulative $1.5 million prior to the May 2 pre-primary campaign disclosure filing.


KENTUCKY

With no governor or senator on the ballot this year, the six House races lead the Kentucky 2018 ticket. All six congressmen, five Republicans and one Democrat, are seeking re-election and none have serious primary opposition tomorrow.

The most interesting race is the 6th District Democratic primary where Lexington-Fayette Mayor Jim Gray and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, are in a spirited battle among a field of six candidates.

Mayor Gray raised $1.3 million before the May 2nd pre-primary filing deadline. Col. McGrath had brought in an impressive $2.0 million, but had already spent all but $300,000 as the candidates turned for the final three weeks that were remaining in the primary campaign.

Tomorrow’s winner faces three-term Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington), who’s raised over $2.48 million for this campaign and has $2.31 million cash-on-hand. This will be a competitive race in the fall regardless of who claims the Democratic nomination tomorrow night.


TEXAS

Thirteen significant Lone Star State political run-offs will be decided today, thus ending the nomination process that began with the Texas primary election back on March 6.

In the governor’s race, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former Texas Gov. Mark White (D), do battle for the Democratic nomination. Sheriff Valdez placed first in the March 6 vote with 43 percent versus White’s 27 percent, but she failed to reach the majority plateau. Therefore, the two were forced into today’s run-off. Originally, nine Democrats were on the ballot. The winner faces Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.

TX-2: This Houston suburban seat yields a Republican run-off contest between state Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) and retired Navy officer Dan Crenshaw. The Republican winner will be the prohibitive favorite to win the seat in the fall and replace retiring Rep. Ted Poe (R-Atascocita).

TX-5: Retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas) leaves a Republican run-off to decide his successor. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Kaufman County) received 30 percent in the March 6 election and now faces former Hensarling campaign manager and political fundraiser Bunni Pounds, who the congressman publicly supports. Pounds attracted 22 percent in the field of eight candidates. The Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite in November. He or she will oppose former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood (D) in the general election.

TX-6: Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional staff member Ron Wright (R) came within five percentage points of clinching the nomination outright in March. He now faces the distant second place finisher, pilot Jake Ellzey, in today’s vote. Wright is the heavy favorite for the GOP nomination and the seat.

TX-7: In the first significant Democratic run-off of the evening, Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) will find out whom he will face in what could become a competitive general election. Attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who most of the Democratic Party establishment backs, placed first in March with a 29-24 percent margin over author Laura Mosher. A close finish is expected tonight.

TX-21: This San Antonio-Austin district is the second of three seats where both parties are holding run-off electoral contests. For the favored Republicans, former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy topped a field of 18 candidates with 27 percent of the vote. He now faces businessman and frequent candidate Matt McCall who captured 17 percent. Roy is favored to ultimately replace retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), who won his first congressional election in 1986. The Democratic race features aerospace engineer Joseph Kopser and Baptist Minister Mary Wilson. Wilson placed first in the March 6th primary with 31 percent of the vote, followed closely by Mr. Kopser’s 29 percent.

TX-23: In the state’s one true swing district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) runs for a third term. Since it’s origination, this district has seen all six of its previous representatives suffer a defeat at the polls. In the Democratic run-off, former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones, who captured 42 percent of the vote in the first election, strives to win the nomination against educator and former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino. Trevino pulled 17 percent support in the field of five original Democratic candidates. Jones is favored to win tonight. We can expect another toss-up campaign for the fall.

TX-27: Resigned Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) leaves an open seat and a June 30 special election in his wake. Tonight, both parties will host run-off elections. Republicans are favored to hold the seat, and former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun and ex-Victoria County Republican Party chairman and media production company owner Michael Cloud are vying for the party nomination.

TX-31: A spirited Democratic run-off is taking place in Williamson and Bell Counties, as Afghan War veteran and author M.J. Hegar faces Dr. Christine Mann, a physician. In the primary, Hegar garnered 45 percent versus Dr. Mann’s 34 percent. The winner then begins an uphill challenge against eight-term veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock).

TX-32: In 2016, 11-term Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) had no Democratic Party opposition. This year, seven Democrats competed in the primary, and two advanced into the run-off election. Civil Rights attorney and former Tennessee Titans NFL football player Colin Allred opposes former Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Lillian Salerno for the party nomination. In the March 6 primary, Allred earned 38 percent support while Salerno took 18 percent. Allred is favored today and, with its changing demographics, this general election campaign will be more competitive than in immediate past years.

The Coming New Specials

By Jim Ellis

May 1, 2018 — Just when we thought the number of special elections was lessening when Debbie Lesko won the AZ-8 election last week to replace resigned Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria), new vacancies are popping up.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), who had previously announced his retirement for term’s end, abruptly resigned when learning the House Ethics Committee was going to launch an investigation into the severance payment awarded to one of his staff employees. The source of this particular recompense was the special taxpayer funded congressional account found to cover members’ special staff settlements.

Meehan also pledged to repay the $39,000 payment that is the investigation’s basis within the next 30 days. Now that Meehan has exited the House, the Ethics Committee no longer has jurisdiction. He joins former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) who resigned in early April also to avoid a congressional investigation.

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) resigned his seat in late April to accept his position in the Trump Administration as the new NASA Administrator. Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) says he will resign his seat at an unspecified date in early May, presumably because he will be accepting a position in the private sector. As we know, the late New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) passed away on March 16.

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Another Resignation;
North Dakota Convention Results

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

April 10, 2018 — Four-term Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), who had shelved his plan to run for re-election well before the March 6 state primary largely due to details stemming from a sexual harassment settlement, abruptly resigned from the House on Friday. Farenthold delivered his announcement via video during the middle of the day and left his position by 5 pm.

The resignation from his TX-27 seat had been rumored because the House Ethics Committee was about to conduct a further investigation into the harassment case and the $84,000 taxpayer funded settlement. Rep. Farenthold said earlier that he would reimburse the government for the payment, but records do not indicate the refund was made. By resigning, the Ethics Committee cannot continue the investigation because Farenthold will no longer be a member.

With now former Rep. Farenthold having left office early, five House seats will be vacant upon Pennsylvania Rep-Elect Conor Lamb’s (D-Pittsburgh) imminent induction. The others are: AZ-8 (Franks-R), MI-13 (Conyers-D), NY-25 (Slaughter-D), and OH-12 (Tiberi-R). All will be filled by special election before the current Congress ends, though the Michigan seat will be done concurrently with the regular election cycle and there is no announced schedule for the New York seat. The AZ-8 seat special general election is April 24. The OH-12 special primary will be held May 8, concurrent with the regular state primary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to decide a replacement procedure for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).

The Texas succession situation is unclear. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has eight days to decide on a special election schedule. The post-primary run-off for both parties is May 22 for the now vacant 27th CD.

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The Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s first regular primary results are in the books, and the Texas electorate largely performed in its typical fashion last night.

Democrats were citing that their primary turnouts would be much higher this year in anticipation of a more competitive 2018 general election cycle; however, the party turnout was substantially better than in the 2014 midterm election (almost double the participation factor), it was still only two-thirds of their 2016 presidential total.

(To see full-size results graphic below, please click on image; partial results shown.)
325-2018-Texas-Primary-Results-graphicDespite the increase, just 6.8 percent of the state’s more than 15 million registered voters cast a ballot in this year’s Democrat primary. Adding the Republican vote, the primary registered only a 17 percent total turnout, again making the state one of the lowest in terms of party primary participation.

This year, 60 percent of those voting chose to cast a Republican ballot, down from the 71 percent in the last midterm and the 68 percent total from the 2016 presidential race. But, in the 17 Republican congressional districts where both sides fielded contested primaries, in only one CD, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District, did more Democrats vote than Republicans.

As expected, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) easily captured their party nominations for the US Senate campaign. Sen. Cruz recorded an 85.3 percent vote total among Republicans, while 61.8 percent of Democrats chose Rep. O’Rourke. Since both men exceeded the 50 percent plus one vote majority figure, each advances to the general election.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott racked up a 90.4 percent win in the GOP primary, while Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (42.9 percent) and businessman Andrew White (27.4 percent) must now duel in a May 22 run-off election to decide the Democrat nomination.

In the eight open congressional races, three featured outright winners. In retiring Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Plano) north Texas 3rd District, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), as expected, easily captured the Republican nomination (84.7 percent) and he will go onto win the general election. In Rep. O’Rourke’s El Paso-anchored 16th District, the El Paso County Judge (Executive), Veronica Escobar, recorded a 61.4 percent win over five opponents and will easily win the succeeding general election. In Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), also as expected, notched a 63.2 percent win against six Democratic opponents, and she will replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in the 29th CD.

Turning to Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Atascocita) open district, a surprise occurred in the GOP primary. Though she spent over $5 million of her own money, GOP activist Kathaleen Wall failed to qualify for the run-off by a slight 145-vote margin. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) placed first with 33 percent and will face retired Naval officer Dan Crenshaw (27.4 percent) in the May 22 Republican run-off. The winner will have the inside track toward replacing the retiring seven-term incumbent in the general election.

A run-off will occur in retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Dallas) 5th District. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) advances to the run-off against political fundraiser Bunni Pounds. Gooden’s advantage in the primary vote was 29-22 percent over Pounds. Former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional chief of staff Ron Wright came within five percentage points of clinching the Republican nomination in retiring Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis) north Texas’ 6th District. He becomes a heavy favorite to dispatch airline pilot and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Ellzey (21.7 percent) in the run-off election. Wright will likely succeed the retiring 17-term congressman.

In the 18-candidate 21st District Republican primary to succeed veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy placed first (27 percent), and will face frequent candidate Matt McCall (17 percent) in the run-off election. McCall, who has previously challenged Rep. Smith, may have benefited from name confusion since this seat is adjacent to Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Austin) 10th District. Roy now becomes the favorite to win the run-off and the general election to follow the retiring incumbent.

Turning to the Corpus Christi area, former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun (36.1 percent) placed a close first in the Republican primary over former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud (34.9 percent), and the two will battle again in late May. The likely Republican nominee will replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

Looking at the three races that are expected to be competitive in the general election, Rep. Hurd was easily re-nominated (80.3 percent), while the Democrats must go to a run-off. Former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones ran strongly in the Democratic primary (41.3 percent), but must face former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino (17.5 percent) on May 22. The Democrat establishment’s favored candidate, attorney Jay Huling’s (15 percent), failed to qualify. The succeeding general election here will be competitive in what is the state’s lone swing district.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was easily re-nominated with 76.1 percent while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (29.3 percent) and author Laura Moser (24.3 percent) advance to a run-off.

In Dallas, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) won a 79.3 percent re-nomination victory, while ex-NFL player Colin Allred (38.5 percent) and former US Agriculture Department official Lillian Salerno (18.3 percent) will battle in the May 22 Democrat run-off election.

None of the 28 House incumbents seeking re-election were forced into a run-off. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), running for what she says will be her last term, fared the worst but still scored a 63.6 percent re-nomination victory over two opponents.

Primary Season Begins Today

By Jim Ellis

texas-primary-election-2018March 6, 2018 — The 2018 primaries begin today, as Texans will complete their voting process for the first-in-the-nation midterm primary.

The Lone Star State political card features the US Senate race, a full compliment of statewide races, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R) beginning his campaign for re-election, along with voters choosing nominees in the 36 US House seats. The delegation’s eight open seats will attract the most attention. Should candidates not receive majority support, run-off elections between the top two finishers in each party will subsequently be held on May 22.

Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) are expected to easily win their respective nominations. This will officially begin the nation’s first US Senate general election cycle. Rep. O’Rourke will have the benefit of commanding strong financial resources — he had just under $5 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period — because so many national liberal donors are contributing against Sen. Cruz.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary features Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez opposing businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D). Neither have major resources, and the winner draws Gov. Abbott who could top $100 million in spending. The governor is viewed as a safe bet for re-election.

In the 36 House races, 28 incumbents are seeking re-election; 15 of them (a dozen Republicans and three Democrats) have primary opposition, but all are expected to easily win re-nomination.

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Setting the Stage: The Texas Primary

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 23, 2018 — We’re now inside two weeks before the first-in-the-nation regular midterm primary election, as the Texas early voting process is now well underway in preparation for the March 6 regular primary vote.

texas-primary-election-2018Seventy-six candidates are running for major statewide office — races for governor, US senator, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner, and one slot on the state railroad commission. A record total of 304 Democrats, Republicans, Independent and minor party candidates are vying for their respective party nominations in the state’s 36 US House districts.

Texas is a run-off state, meaning if no candidate in the various primaries receives majority support, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on May 22. Since a vast number of races have multiple candidates, including 28 individual candidates alone fighting to succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) in his open central Texas CD, the secondary election calendar promises to also have a large slate of late May voting contests.

Two Democrats off to late starts are vying to face Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and though nine candidates are on the Democratic gubernatorial ballot, there remains some possibility that either Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D), will emerge as the party’s nominee on March 6.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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A New Republican Governor

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2017 — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made national news the other night at President Trump’s rally in Huntington, WV, when the Democratic state chief executive took the stage to announce that he is switching to the Republican Party.

When addressing the Trump rally, Justice said, “like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”

The move now gives Republicans control of the entire West Virginia governmental apparatus, owning both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Factoring Justice’s party change, the GOP holds the West Virginia chief executive post for the first time since Gov. Arch Moore (R) was defeated for re-election in 1988. There are now 26 states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, including Nebraska where the legislature only has one ostensibly non-partisan legislative chamber but is clearly overwhelmingly Republican. In contrast, Democrats have full power in only five states.

The development means the Democrats drop to holding just 15 governors, an all-time low number for the party. Republicans, on the other hand, reach their historical apex with 34 governors as party members. The 50th governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, is an Independent.

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